Ah, Saturday morning!
Last Friday, when I returned from my weekly jaunt to Reading, the first thing on my list was a quick spot of DIY. Regular readers of this blog will know that DIY and myself go together like a horse and marriage, and will not be disappointed to know that my refit of the shower switch in the bathroom took three times longer than planned. At least this time, it wasn’t me at fault but the new switch I bought – which only worked 50% of the time.
On – yes. Off – yes. On – well, no, not even a bit. Off – well, it was already off. On – yes. What?!? Off… yes etc. The novelty wore thin very quickly but after fixing and refitting the old switch, there was a bottle of wine to help numb the pain.
Saturday morning – that’s where this blog really starts. Up with the lark (one that rises about half eight, we have civilised larks by us), I was out to help coppice* the willow that forms an integral part of the wetland system at Denmark Farm, the wonderful conservation centre near Chez Snail. The Eco Lodge (where you will all have a holiday very soon, I hope – look into my eyes, count backwards – ‘I will holiday in the Eco Lodge’) has its own waste water treatment plant – ponds where algae and willow and fish all help to clean the water, all natural, no moving parts (well man-made anyway).
So, the willow absorbs lots of nasties and breaks them down, in the process growing so fast that you can almost see it climbing skywards. And that’s where myself, and ten or so other hardy souls, come in.
The plan is so sustainably cunning, you could stick a tail on it and call it a Eco-fox. We would learn about coppicing willow, from a pair of master coppicers (OK, I made that word up) and then the self-same teachers would transform into master weavers and use the willow we had cut to teach weaving on the Sunday. See? Eco-fox all the way…
Paul and Steph, of Willowcraft and Woodlands, taught us everything we needed to know about the types of willow, their uses and how to coppice. Having sat and drunk tea for half an hour, we headed out into the bright November sunshine and started work. Volunteering here is always a joy – but given dry and sunny, it becomes almost a crime not to!
After lunch and more cutting, all the willow was cut and bundled, ready for the weaving on Sunday. And, to round off the day, Paul showed us an essential willow crafting skill – how to make a wand.
Just like the wetland system itself, and willow in particular, that’s magic!
* To cut down to almost ground level (or hack to within an inch of its life, if its my hedge)